It’s an interesting idea to sum up The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth in five objects – I quite enjoyed it. It might actually be a great technique when planning future stories!
Hair provided the initial inspiration for my book, specifically the macabre Victorian art of weaving a dead person’s hair into jewellery or other decorative items as a memento mori. I can’t remember where I first heard about this but when I started researching it, I found examples from the past and also (more bizarrely) from the present. Yes, there are people selling Victorian hair antiques on eBay: brooches with hair woven into a pattern inside, watchstraps made from plaited hair, rings with hair inside, etc. Briefly, I wondered if I should invest in one for research purposes, but thankfully I never indulged that idea.
Once I built the story around the idea of a picture frame containing a dead girl’s hair, and how that would act as a conduit for her spirit to contact Lindy, I then thought it would be interesting to have a parallel hair theme in the present day, which is when I came up with the idea of Lindy pulling out her hair as a way of coping with her grief.
It’s hardly surprising that my novel has a lot of headstones in it, especially as it is set in three different graveyards: two in Oxford and the famous Highgate Cemetery in London. When I was researching the novel, I was fascinated to discover that the symbols on headstones have different meanings. For example, an anchor might indicate the deceased was a sailor, but it also represents commitment to the Christian faith, while daffodils on Victorian graves symbolised unrequited love.
3. Glass bottles
In order to be able to talk to her father beyond the grave, Lindy must solve a series of riddles and find hidden pieces of a photograph. These pieces have been placed inside glass bottles, which are then buried in the graves where two of the characters were buried. Lindy has to locate these and then dig to try to take out the bottles. Imagine digging into an area where you know someone is buried – without being seen and with the risk of finding more than a bottle!
4. Marker pens
When Lindy receives a riddle to solve, it’s usually when she’s asleep. Unfortunately, she writes it down with a Sharpie marker pen … on her bedroom walls. Her mother is furious and terrified. Why is her daughter graffitiing her walls? Is she trying to stop people buying their house? Is she going mad? Lindy never has any recollection of doing this but no one believes that she did it while unconscious, although Tom suggests it is an example of ‘automatic writing’, which is when a spirit uses a living person to write messages (Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle knew a lot about this.)
Not everyone likes cats but I do, and I wanted to give Lindy a couple of furry allies in her story. (Plus, animals are very attuned to spiritual vibes and I knew they could react to the atmosphere in a room before the humans were even aware of anything.) Years ago, I read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien and came across the names ‘Bifur’ and ‘Bofur’ and thought what fantastic names they would make for felines. I never managed to give them to my own cats, as I almost always adopt rescue animals who are already named, so my book gave me the chance to use them.
Sam Pope is a writer, editor, teacher and children’s librarian based in Oxford. You can catch Sam on Twitter @childtastic.